Pssst! Longing to look at something beautiful? Something non-representational, apolitical, highly emotive; something you can mentally fall into as if it were a cool soft bed on a hot afternoon? Then go by Raleigh Contemporary Gallery, through Sept. 29, to see Graham Auman's new paintings. They are mightily refreshing.
Auman comes from a background in clay, but for many years he's made highly formal objects with delicately nuanced colors distinguishing "subject" and "ground." The new work is all subject, or all ground, as you prefer--each piece is a unified object, a textured field unbroken by drawing.
Auman creates a pillowy, slightly rippled surface by saturating loosely stretched canvas with resin, onto which he applies hundreds of layers of sheer oil paint which he lets drip to a carefully controlled degree. He turns the canvas as he works, so that the drips run in the four cardinal directions, and create shimmers and sheens of color.
Each of these paintings has a title giving a clue to its visual source. For this series, Auman has been looking at flowers and plants, submerging himself in the essence of their affect, and trying to reproduce in paint the suave complexity of their colors. The best of these make you feel as if you had slipped below the skins of magnolia, camellia, lavender, to know them most intimately. The longer you look, the more you see--you go down and down into the nexus of color, an ecstatic drifter. And when you reluctantly propel yourself back to the surface and step away, you see that, while the colorful essence of plant is there, these paintings resemble nothing so much as the exquisitely glazed surfaces of enormous pots.